Spanish researchers conclude that Plantago ovata seed therapy is useful in maintaining remission in ulcerative colitis patients and may also reduce the risk of colon cancer in these patients. Ulcerative colitis is characterized by intestinal pain, diarrhea, and malabsorption of nutrients and involves an inflammation of the lining of the colon. The disease is often intermittent in nature and is conventionally treated with anti-inflammatory agents such as sulfasalazine, ACTH, and mesalamine. It is known that short-chain fatty acids, especially butyric acid has anti-inflammatory effects and butyrate enemas have been used with some success in maintaining remission of ulcerative colitis. A group of researchers from a number of Spanish hospitals (the Spanish Group for the Study of Crohn's Disease and Ulcerative Colitis) now reports that Plantago ovata seeds are effective in maintaining remission in ulcerative colitis patients. Plantago ovata (a cousin of Psyllium) is known to generate butyrate in the colon through a fermentation process. The study involved 105 patients taking mesalamine whose ulcerative colitis was in remission. At the start of the experiment the patients were randomized into three groups. Group 1 was given two 10-gram sachets of Plantago ovata seeds twice a day (with 300 ml of water), Group 2 was given a 500 mg tablet of mesalamine three times a day, and Group 3 was given both Plantago ovata seeds and mesalamine in the dosages indicated above. After 12 months 60 per cent of the patients in the Plantago ovata group were still in remission as compared to 65 per cent in the mesalamine group, and 70 per cent in the group taking both the seeds and mesalamine.
Fernandez-Banares, F., et al. Randomized clinical trail of Plantago ovata seeds (dietary fiber) as compared with mesalamine in maintaining remission in ulcerative colitis. American Journal of Gastroenterology, Vol. 94, February 1999, pp. 427-33